Waitangi Day kicks off with dawn service

Two protester were a noisy blip in an otherwise "spiritual" Waitangi Day dawn service on Monday.

After a controversial few days of Waitangi Day celebrations at Te Tii Marae, celebratory events began at first light the service attended by hundreds Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

The traditional event kicks off a big day of celebrations for New Zealanders across the country and the world.

Waitangi Day commemorates the first signing of New Zealand's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. It is a public holiday.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett arrived in Waitangi on Sunday afternoon ahead of the event.

She flew in on an New Zealand Air Force helicopter after visiting HMNZS Canterbury, which is docked in the Bay of Islands.

Ms Bennett led the Government delegation at the dawn service in place of Prime Minister Bill English who has refused to attend because of a dispute over speaking rights at Sunday's powhiri.

Mr English is instead scheduled to attend a series of events across Auckland on Monday.

Labour leader Andrew Little also attended the dawn service and will return to Wellington for celebrations there, ahead of the first day back at Parliament on Tuesday.

In his address to the crowd, Mr Little asked that the Treaty remind people "in a day and an age world driven by exclusion division and hate great nation be a beacon of celebrating peace and unity".

While Ngapuhi representative Sonny Tau took the opportunity to go off script, saying he was moved by the spirit of the occasion.

"We've got a lot of work to do. We are watering down the Treaty of Waitangi  - we need to consider those things as we move forward as a country."

The ceremony was largely peaceful, though the quiet was disrupted by two protester during the final karakia. They were escorted off the marae.

Ms Bennett says she "chose to ignore" them.

"I have been to the dawn ceremonies before, I've always found them to be incredibly spiritual and quite humbling and a real reminder of our country and on a day we can come together and celebrate that.

"I chose to ignore a couple of people outside that made some noise because I do think this is a respectful dawn ceremony." 

Monday's events are set to be less controversial than those on Saturday and Sunday at Te Tii Marae where media were banned from covering the event after a number of organisations refused to pay $10,000 for exclusive coverage.

Marae representatives put up tarpaulins blocking views from outside during a visit by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy on Saturday.

NZ First leader Winston Peters boycotted a powhiri and political forum on Sunday because of the ban, which he called "totally out of hand" and an "abomination to Maoridom".

Mr Little expressed his concern about the ban while speaking at the powhiri and said he too would boycott Te Tii next year if it continued.

New Kiwis welcomed

Meanwhile, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy is meeting new New Zealanders and hosting a garden party in Wellington to mark Waitangi Day.

About 25 people with ties to 17 countries will become New Zealanders at a citizenship ceremony at Government House.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester will administer the oaths and affirmations of allegiance.

Following the ceremony, Dame Patsy and her husband, Sir David Gascoigne, will host the annual Bledisloe Garden Reception attended by community and Government guests and 800 members of the public, who received invitations through a public ballot process.

The Governor-General will deliver her Waitangi Day address at the reception.

NZN / Newshub.